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MySpace Verdict a Danger To Depressed Kids 502

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-need-no-more-reasons dept.
Slashdot regular Bennett Haselton summarizes his essay this way: "Debate over the Lori Drew verdict has focused overwhelmingly on whether the ruling was technically correct, but there is another serious issue: the perverse incentives that this ruling creates for victims of online harassment." Read on for his essay.

Since a jury convicted Lori Drew of three misdemeanors for harassing Megan Meier on MySpace and causing her to commit suicide, most of the debate has focused on the question of whether proper legal procedure was followed in an attempt to punish someone for their obviously evil actions, when it wasn't clear that an actual crime had been committed. Emily Bazelon has argued that the rule of law is too important to convict someone for a crime for what was essentially a violation of the MySpace Terms of Service. Anne Mitchell has argued that the slippery slope is nowhere near as dangerous as the backlash is making it sound, because the doctrine of prosecuting people for violating a site's TOS is almost certainly only going to be used against people who commit horrific acts in the process, as Lori Drew did.

I'm more inclined toward the rule of law argument, but hang on — both sides seem to be assuming that it was a desirable outcome to punish Lori Drew publicly and severely. Hell yes she deserved it, but there is more at stake here. What about the consequences for kids who are current victims of harassment and who hear about the case and the verdict?

When anti-cyber-bullying laws were proposed in response to the original news of Megan Meier's suicide, I argued that the laws would be a terrible idea, especially if the criminal provisions of the law were conditional on the bullying victim harming themselves — because then you've created told victims of harassment: You can have your tormentors publicly vilified and even arrested, but only if you make it look like you tried to injure or kill yourself (and at which you might succeed in the process, intentionally or not).

What would be true of a cyber-bulling law is also true for the pseudo-caselaw created by the verdict. Surely there are other Megan Meiers out there who should not be led to believe that they can ruin their harasser's lives by committing suicide.

Now you might argue that by my reasoning, existing harassment laws which are contingent on the victim showing signs of emotional distress, could lead to the same problem — victims either consciously faking distress, or trying to fake distress so convincingly that they actually harm themselves, or subconsciously absorbing the fact that they can only get justice if they actually show harm. I had actually assumed that existing harassment laws governed only the conduct of the harasser, and did not depend on how the victim felt, but I was wrong — here in Washington State for example, RCW 10.14 states that harassing conduct is conduct that

"shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress,
and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner." [emphasis added]

Reading that literally means that no matter how bad the harassment is, you still have to feel distressed in order to have them prosecuted, and the more distressed you "act," the more likely you are to succeed! But hang on — in order for that law to create incentives for victims of harassment to fake distress in order to have their personal enemies prosecuted, they would have to actually know that the law says that. I doubt that most people walking around Washington know the exact wording of the harassment law. More likely, they already realize that if they were to ever try and have someone prosecuted for harassment who didn't actually deserve it, a little tears and shaking would probably influence the judge, whether or not their feelings had any technical relevance under the law. And even if they were to exaggerate the effects of the harassment, all they would have to do would be to claim that they threw up or lost sleep from anxiety — they wouldn't have to show evidence of trying to harm or kill themselves.

On the other hand, everybody has heard about the Lori Drew and Megan Meier case, and it seems likely that the fact that Megan killed herself did contribute to the conviction. (At one point Judge George H. Wu had said that he would probably exclude evidence from the trial that Megan Meier had committed suicide as a result of the harassment, but later changed his mind and did allow it to be mentioned, saying "It's impossible to get a jury that doesn't know.") If Megan Meier had merely lost sleep, or suffered from panic attacks, or cut herself as a result of the harassment she endured from Lori Drew, would Drew have been convicted? Or even arrested?

These perverse incentives — "rewarding" Megan Meier for her suicide by vicariously exacting her revenge on Lori Drew — have been present ever since the wall-to-wall coverage of the case first started. Many news outlets have a policy of not publishing the names of suicide victims, not only to protect the privacy of grieving families but to avoid "rewarding" suicides by giving them the attention they may have wanted. The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles does not list any policy against printing the names of suicides. Maybe they should. (They do have a policy against printing the names of sexual assault victims, for example.) But it's a slippery journalistic slope to go down once you start deciding not to publish certain elements of a story, even for what seem to be compelling reasons. For example, take the policy of not publishing the names of alleged rape victims. If the rationale is that the AP doesn't want to cause unfair embarrassment to the alleged victims in case their story is true, why wouldn't the AP also avoid publishing the name of the defendant, to avoid causing them vastly greater unfair embarrassment in case the victim's story is false? So any decision to leave someone's name out of a story can lead to sticky "but-then-what-about" scenarios.

Perhaps the story should not have been covered at all, or anywhere near as much as it was. (I realize I may be contributing to the problem here, but my penance is that I'm calling for less coverage in the future, and I would never be writing about this if the mainstream media hadn't covered it so extensively.) What about all the other people who committed suicide during the same year, also as a result of vicious harassment, but with the only difference being that their suicides did not involve the Internet? Don't they deserve the same justice, and don't their tormentors deserve the same vilification?

Defenders of Internet civil liberties have for years been disgusted with the fact that crimes involving the Internet — from simple identity theft to rape and murder — have always gotten disproportionately more attention than the same or similar crimes committed without the aid of a computer. In the Megan Meier case, the effect of the coverage is even worse: Leading potential suicides to believe that they can have the sympathy they always wanted, and revenge on those they hate, if they kill themselves.

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MySpace Verdict a Danger To Depressed Kids

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:53PM (#26135645)

    I mean, I was raped on the Internet. My Karma went from Excellent to Terrible due to one post.

    But I'd hardly call it a crime. Travesty, maybe...

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:55PM (#26135679) Homepage Journal

      If the rationale is that the AP doesn't want to cause unfair embarrassment to the alleged victims in case their story is true, why wouldn't the AP also avoid publishing the name of the defendant, to avoid causing them vastly greater unfair embarrassment in case the victim's story is false?

      Excellent quote. You jest, but take into account this true story: my buddy who was 21 at the time was in a sexual relationship with a 17 year old whose father(who was a Sheriff) allowed it, even inviting my buddy to go on camping trips with them and allowing them their own tent.

      After an abortion, the relationship turned sour, and my buddy was arrested shortly afterward for statutory rape. Only his name and the crime he was being charged with appeared in the paper. Bad news given the conservative, small-town lynch-mob environment. Though the charges were dropped after he posted bail, his rep was ruined all because of a petty revenge stunt with connections to law enforcement. The media are ruthless and they value sensation above all else.

      Bennett's essay is great all-around as encroaching laws provide greater opportunity for enchroachment and abuse(the DMCA comes to mind), and it's frightening that emotionally unstable teens(aren't all teens emotionally unstable?) will have greater latitude in becoming weapons. It's kind of analagous to suicide bombing - give 'em an incentive, and they'll do it. And in today's absurd world, why wouldn't a depressed or terminally ill person offer their revenge service for hire?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So....the lesson here is? Don't fuck the underage daughter of local law inforcement when you are old enough to drink?

        Ummmmmm no shit?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by buddyglass (925859)

          One lesson is: gather evidence that would demonstrate the dad was okay with it. If he then tries to go after you for the fact that the girl was underage, you can produce evidence that makes him party to the crime since he knew about it and approved.

          That said, I'm guessing the poster's story isn't 100% accurate. In many (most?) states its perfectly legal to sleep with a 17 year old regardless of the age difference. The additional lesson to be had: know the laws in your state. That lesson also applies t

          • Not in liberal, progressive California.

            If your "date" is under 18 years of age then you must be within 3 years of age [ageofconsent.com]. 21 - 17 = 4.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Psmylie (169236) *

              Not in liberal, progressive California. If your "date" is under 18 years of age then you must be within 3 years of age [ageofconsent.com]. 21 - 17 = 4.

              So, if she's 15, you can be 18
              If she's 16, you can be 19
              If she's 17, you can be 20, and
              If she's 18, you can be 82
              So, I guess Hef's in the clear. Filthy old pervert I don't envy at all (no, really!)

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Phroggy (441)

            One lesson is: gather evidence that would demonstrate the dad was okay with it. If he then tries to go after you for the fact that the girl was underage, you can produce evidence that makes him party to the crime since he knew about it and approved.

            The lesson is, it doesn't matter if her dad was OK with it or not. The charges were dropped, he was never convicted of a crime. Producing evidence that he was OK with it wouldn't have saved his reputation.

        • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:08PM (#26136735) Journal

          The lesson here is that it shouldn't be illegal for anyone to fuck a 17yr old girl.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by snowgirl (978879) *

        If the rationale is that the AP doesn't want to cause unfair embarrassment to the alleged victims in case their story is true, why wouldn't the AP also avoid publishing the name of the defendant, to avoid causing them vastly greater unfair embarrassment in case the victim's story is false?

        Excellent quote. You jest, but take into account this true story: my buddy who was 21 at the time was in a sexual relationship with a 17 year old whose father(who was a Sheriff) allowed it, even inviting my buddy to go on camping trips with them and allowing them their own tent.

        After an abortion, the relationship turned sour, and my buddy was arrested shortly afterward for statutory rape. Only his name and the crime he was being charged with appeared in the paper. Bad news given the conservative, small-town lynch-mob environment. Though the charges were dropped after he posted bail, his rep was ruined all because of a petty revenge stunt with connections to law enforcement. The media are ruthless and they value sensation above all else.

        So, what are you trying to say here? That a person commits statutory rape, (by your own admission you state this to be true) and is then arrested for it, and suffers consequences for it?

        Here's a hint... parental consent to statutory rape does not make it any less illegal.

        The charges were probably dropped because the sheriff could have been brought up on child neglect. However, again... by your own statement, THE CRIME HAPPENED.

        Let this be a lesson to anyone... just because someone is looking the other way

        • Read this [wikipedia.org] and try again. Even if the CRIME(by the way, you don't have to yell ^_^ ) happened.

          My point, basically, (perhaps I should have been more clear) was that things aren't always black or white and the media should not print names until after the verdict is delivered.
          • by genner (694963)

            My point, basically, (perhaps I should have been more clear) was that things aren't always black or white and the media should not print names until after the verdict is delivered.

            Exactly, I mean look at what happend to OJ.....the first trial I mean.

          • Extenuating circumstances? Seriously? "Her daddy said it was ok" does not qualify as extenuating circumstances!

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:32PM (#26136201)

          snowgirl, if you're ok with some guy who was previously in a loving relationship with a girl, with the consent of her family, having his life destroyed because the relationship turns sour, then you're not over whatever it was that happened to you.

          The guy the GP referred to, does not deserve your misplaced anger and wish for retribution. The guy who assaulted you does.

          Best of luck.

        • by Spazztastic (814296) <`spazztastic' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:32PM (#26136205)

          Let this be a lesson to anyone... just because someone is looking the other way when seeing you do something doesn't mean that it wasn't illegal or criminal in the first place.

          What if a crime didn't happen in the first place but the charges were made and brought to the public? See: Duke Lacrosse Team Scandal [wikipedia.org].

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by evanbd (210358)
          The charges might also have been dropped because offering them their own tent and then prosecuting them for using it could constitute entrapment.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rycross (836649)

          What we have here is a relationship between two sexually mature people, who were both obviously capable of consent (confirmed by her father and any reasonable interpretation of consent), only one of the people was barely under the technical legal age of consent. For that "crime," he is lumped in the same category for people who forcibly rape children. As a result, he will be ostracized. At best, he will have to move. At worse it will follow him for the rest of his life. I don't think that's a fair puni

        • by sckeener (137243) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @05:09PM (#26137561)

          Here's a hint... parental consent to statutory rape does not make it any less illegal.

          depends on the state.

          In many states the laws are different with parental consent. Check out the marriage laws by state [cornell.edu]

          I believe there was an example above that said California requires all parties to be 18 or older and that isn't true with parental consent. There is no age limit with parental consent.

          You might be asking why I am bringing up marriage. Well in Houston there was a case that involved an illegal immigrant who was living with his girlfriend at her home in her room. She was 13 and he was 17*. The judge ruled that since the couple were living together with parental consent that it constituted a common law marriage. Thus no statutory rape because the couple were common law married because of parental consent.

          * This was before the polygamist sect moved to Texas and we changed our laws. Before they came, the age limit was 12 for girls and 13 for boys with parental or judges consent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        aren't all teens emotionally unstable?

        This is one of the stereotypes and prejudices that I would like to see die, though the media shows no signs of giving this myth up. I for one only became emotionally distraught after I had to deal with the hypocrisy and craft of the adult workplace. Even with something as emotionally charged as dating; high school is often a friendlier place to meet companions than dance clubs.

      • by puto (533470) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @06:26PM (#26138527) Homepage
        When I was 23 and in college I met a girl who was 17 in a class. We were assigned as lab partners and it led to spending a lot of time together.

        She was beautiful, mature, and a good match for me.
        I refused to touch her and date her.

        Her father showed up and my apartment one night with a six pack.

        He said that he had a sad little girl at home because she liked a guy who did not like her back.

        I told the dad it was not the case just the age difference and the law.

        He cracked a beer and said he did not have a problem with the age difference but he laid down some ground rules.

        1. Birth control - he did not want any grandkids just yet.
        2. No drunken debauching outside of my apartment
        3. Treat her well

        He then went on to explain that he was 15 years older than his wife and they had gone through the same thing.

        We finished the six pack and 10 minutes later after he left she showed up with an overnight bag and we ended up dating for 2 years.

        But banging the sheriffs daughter is still a stupid decision unless you plan on marrying her. Daddy can always arrest you.

        Plus he knocked her up.

        Plus an abortion.

        Your friend is a douchebag. The cop trusted the dude and he knocked her up and brought her DR Coathanger. No sympathy whatsoever.
  • by onion2k (203094) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:54PM (#26135657) Homepage

    Leading potential suicides to believe that they can have the sympathy they always wanted, and revenge on those they hate, if they kill themselves.

    Suicidal people, by the very nature of being suicidal, aren't really in a position to make rational judgements regarding what may or may not happen should they top themselves. Suicidal people have, since time began, justified wilfully idiotic acts with spurious reasoning that only makes sense in their own heads. Whatever the outcome of this people will continue to think suicide is their best option - either for their own sake or because they misguidedly believe it'll make someone else feel bad, or even get punished. That isn't some new and exciting insight. It's just been made a little more concrete by this particular case. Using Megan's suicide as a rallying cry of "oh how terrible, everyone will be bumping themselves off for revenge now!" is pretty small minded and it devalues the good that came from Megan's too short life in my opinion. Shame on you.

    • Suicidal people, by the very nature of being suicidal, aren't really in a position to make rational judgements regarding what may or may not happen should they top themselves. Suicidal people have, since time began, justified wilfully idiotic acts with spurious reasoning that only makes sense in their own heads.

      That's the "Crazy people are all crazy" argument which fails to note that it isn't back or white, some people are more delusional than others. This ruling has just made it easier for the more rational people to end up in the same way as the less rational.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by snowgirl (978879) *

        Suicidal people, by the very nature of being suicidal, aren't really in a position to make rational judgements regarding what may or may not happen should they top themselves. Suicidal people have, since time began, justified wilfully idiotic acts with spurious reasoning that only makes sense in their own heads.

        That's the "Crazy people are all crazy" argument which fails to note that it isn't back or white, some people are more delusional than others. This ruling has just made it easier for the more rational people to end up in the same way as the less rational.

        Fine... present to me a reasonable judicial due process to evaluate whether the person is really crazy, or more rationally crazy.

        There isn't a way. So, treat them both the same... after all, the outcome is still the same...

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:24PM (#26136071)

      Suicidal people aren't 100% irrational zombies or something. They seize on things and overemphasize them, downplay contrary evidence, etc., but they do still have thought processes that take into account the external world.

      One of the (many) ways of trying to convince people who are in particular suicidal because of a desire to "get back" at someone is that suicide is not a particularly effective way of getting back at people. Providing a very concrete way in which it arguably actually is a good way of getting back at someone is not very helpful from that perspective.

      • by fishexe (168879) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @06:12PM (#26138347) Homepage

        Megan Meier was not trying to get back at Lori Drew. Nor could she possible have been. She died *not knowing* that Drew was her harasser. Indeed, the verdict against Drew hinged on her *falsifying* her identity. If she had really been that boy she pretended to be, that boy would have committed no crime and gotten off scott-free. The simple fact was, Megan killed herself because she thought the boy of her dreams had turned on her, and Lori Drew is guilty of creating the delusion that drove her to it. It has nothing to do with getting back at anybody.

        Only in the absurd case that someone is suicidal, being harassed by an imaginary person, KNOWS that their harasser is imaginary, yet simultaneously still believes in the fake person, can this verdict ever provide an incentive to suicide. The only incentive this verdict gives anyone is the incentive NOT to pretend to be someone else in order to push people into killing themselves.

    • by rjhubs (929158)
      I have to disagree with you. I am not a psychologist, but there is a lot of research out there that indicates not all suicidal people are the same. This wasn't my original source but it contains what I know: http://www.healthyplace.com/communities/depression/related/suicide_8.asp [healthyplace.com]

      Women are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than men, HOWEVER Men are 4 times more likely to die in a suicide attempt. Is this just because men are better at killing themselves than women? Or perhaps there is a gender dif
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by genner (694963)

        Women are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than men, HOWEVER Men are 4 times more likely to die in a suicide attempt. Is this just because men are better at killing themselves than women? Or perhaps there is a gender difference in the reasoning behind why people choose to attempt suicide.

        Nope men are better at everything.....*ducks*

  • Insurance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:57PM (#26135699)
    Since I have insurance I have every motivation to leave the keys in the ignition of my car when I go into a supermarket shopping, right?
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Since I have insurance I have every motivation to leave the keys in the ignition of my car when I go into a supermarket shopping, right?

      I'd check the insurance policy first.
      Many require signs of forced entry.
      I.E. a sign that you were not negligent.

      Also, WTF does that have to do with harassment and suicide?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by internerdj (1319281)
        Many people have cars. Many people who aren't reasoning at their fullest ability have cars (the clearest evidence being a morning commute). Most people who have cars have insurance. Since insurance will pay for a stolen car, and leaving the keys in the ignition will get my car stolen(ok maybe not my junker but someone's). Easy money is leaving the keys in the ignition.
        And then you say even a moron knows they won't get paid for that. But the article says that using similar reasoning people are going to
      • by RingDev (879105)

        He's making the point that the author's point is rather dumb.

        The author is arguing that by making it law that people who push others into suicide can be held accountable, more people will commit suicide.

        So, by doing something that hurts themselves, they can gain something.

        In the case of the car, by losing the car, he gains the insurance payoff or a new car.

        In the case of the suicidal, by killing themselves, they gain vengeance.

        I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think most people on the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Since I have insurance I have every motivation to leave the keys in the ignition of my car when I go into a supermarket shopping, right?

      Terrible analogy, for these reasons:
      1) You have a deductible - that's money out of your pocket
      2) Your car insurance is for "fair market value" not "replacement value" - if your car is not average - i.e. it is a beater or it is modified or it is just extremely well cared for - the insurance check may not be enough to cover the cost of an equivalent-to-you replacement
      3) Having your car stolen is a PITA - lots of hassle and rigmarole before you are made whole, that's time and money wasted

      So, no you do not hav

  • Identity theft. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Samschnooks (1415697) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @02:59PM (#26135735)

    Defenders of Internet civil liberties have for years been disgusted with the fact that crimes involving the Internet â" from simple identity theft ... have always gotten disproportionately more attention than the same or similar crimes committed without the aid of a computer.

    I am a big civil libertarian and I have to disagree with them on this one. Then again, I don't see how civil liberties are directly affected when things are publicized other than the over-reaction by policy makers and the hysterical members of the public who enable them.

    When internet identity theft scams are publicized, it puts its cause into the public's mind; such as phishing schemes. I don't know of anyone who trusts emails from their bank or eBay anymore asking to "verify personal information" or anything like that. Phishing schemes have become much less successful because of the publicity.

  • I have to agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:00PM (#26135749) Homepage Journal

    What if Drew had a son who agreed to seduce Megan, and who then told her to kill herself? The onlly difference would have been that if it was in person, there would be no evidence - but there would have been no crime, either.

    If so, my friend's Annie's boyfriend is guilty of the same thing. Annie is on Zoloft for clinical depression, and one night when she was in a bad way and talking suicide, he told her everyone would be better off if she did. I wound up taking her to the hospital, where she was admitted to the nut ward.

    Contemptable, but is it legal? Lots of contemptable things are legal. BTW that crazy Annie's back with her boyfriend. I hope she gives him the clap.

    • Re:I have to agree (Score:4, Informative)

      by sabs (255763) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:15PM (#26135937)

      Actually, inciting someone to commit suicide is a crime if they actually succeed, or even if they don't apperently.

      From the New York state legal code.
      "A person who willfully, in any manner, advises, encourages, abets or assists another person in taking the latter's life, is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree." Section 2305 adds that incitement is a felony ever if the would-be suicide survives.

    • Re:I have to agree (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:22PM (#26136035)

      If a guy did this to Megan, and given how large the media circus was, he'd be branded a sexual predator regardless of age and be ostracized from society for the rest of his life.

    • by snowgirl (978879) *

      What if Drew had a son who agreed to seduce Megan, and who then told her to kill herself? The onlly difference would have been that if it was in person, there would be no evidence - but there would have been no crime, either.

      If so, my friend's Annie's boyfriend is guilty of the same thing. Annie is on Zoloft for clinical depression, and one night when she was in a bad way and talking suicide, he told her everyone would be better off if she did. I wound up taking her to the hospital, where she was admitted to the nut ward.

      Contemptable, but is it legal? Lots of contemptable things are legal. BTW that crazy Annie's back with her boyfriend. I hope she gives him the clap.

      As far as I understand this, it wasn't a temporary thing, but an on going form of harassment. Plus, the boy in your case has a reasonable explanation for his interest in the girl. In the case of Megan though, the person was created out of thin air specifically for the purpose of harming the other person.

      BTW, if Lori were to have a son and had told him to intentionally do these cruel things, she certainly would be responsible for the harassment, and the results thereof.

      This isn't a case of a girl talking w

  • At every turn, it seems, people would like to cushion, candy-coat or otherwise render harmless the world we live in. It would be easier to "air condition the planet" than it would be to make everything in the world "safe." The fact is, no matter what is done, some people can handle it and others will not be able to handle it. There will always be people with emotional problems -- it can't be eliminated without extreme and unpleasant measures. [read: extermination] So if we shouldn't go to one extreme [e

    • There is a bit of hypocrisy in this story. I've read many comments that say "I can do whatever I want online but you can't do anything to me". Would you hop into a car with a stranger? Would you give out personal information to someone you just met at a bar (no matter how charming the person is)?

      The beauty of the internet is it's freedom but like in nature, the wild jungle is host to predators and prey. You can't have a "safe" internet and a "free" internet. You need to be careful in the virtual world

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:12PM (#26135889)

    This isn't about myspace, or terms of service, or teenage suicide. This is about guilt. Even when it's "only" online, we're still talking to other people. We're communicating. And communications form the basis of relationships and through relationships we can effect changes to a person's mood, behavior, life circumstances, and more. The issue is trust, and how some people abuse trust. And all of our criminal codes come down to this. I'll say it again, it's about trust. So people feel naturally betrayed and angry when trust is violated (even accidentally).

    But the law is not about trust. The law is about balancing personal freedoms (which includes the right to mistrust and also to betray trust) with society's so-called "best interests", which is mostly about avoiding and minimizing harm. Anyone can throw up a terms of service, and you can't tell me most of you wouldn't wipe your bottoms with the lot of them. I also think I'd find very few people here that would say that talking is a crime; Even when the matter under discussion is about illegal things (like drugs, or underage sex) -- or things we find morally objectionable. Speech in and of itself is not a crime; Actions are criminal.

    Yes, she manipulated the hell out of someone who was vulnerable. But how is that different than commercials on TV, selling us crap we don't need? How is it different than the mormons coming over every sunday to try and convert you? It's not, except for intent. And we all want to punish her, not for violating some TOS crap, but because she violated the trust relationship between a child and adult. "It's all for the children" and we rush in stupidly, blindly, reflexively, to protect them. And that is what happened here. The very thing the justice system is supposed to prevent: Linking emotive thinking to punishment.

    • Actually, I think the TOS served it's intended purpose--it effectively shifted liability from MySpace to the parent. Also, since there apparently is no way to convict this moron mom other than the computer fraud angle, they nailed her for that. Kind of like nabbing mobsters for mail fraud.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      Speech can definitely be a crime:
      "Fire!" at the wrong time or context.

      "Let's go kill all the [insert ethnic or religious group]!" and obviously meaning it.

      "If you don't give me enough money, I'll tell the world who you slept with on Thursday."

      "If you vote for anyone other than John Jackson, I'll kill you."

      You get the idea. Just because it's speech (online or otherwise) doesn't mean it can't be criminal.

  • Assholes and Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:19PM (#26136001) Journal

    ... punish someone for their obviously evil actions, when it wasn't clear that an actual crime had been committed.

    This is what I call an "ASSHOLE LAW", where someone obviously evil to most people, but clearly within the confines of what is "legal".

    In the old days ... people like this would get their asses kicked, and the law would look away. The assholes would end up being isolated away from the rest of the community.

    Bad cases make worse laws. This case is just another example of ASSHOLE justice, which is really bad for defining what is legal or not legal.

    Assholes always skirt around the edges of what is legal, which is my definition of what an asshole is. Assholes ruin it for everyone else.

    Next Asshole on the list ... Blago.

  • Mis-assignment of responsibility, undermines the idea of responsibility.

  • The problem with any law in which criminality is dependent upon the feelings of the victims is that it allows for arbitrary and capricious prosecution. Unlike most criminal laws, which criminalize specific acts (such as robbery, for example), this law allows any exchange of opinions between two people to be turned into a criminal matter should one person feel slighted.

    You might think this is extreme, but when a Canadian printer refused to print a flyer because of his moral objections to the content, he

  • by Hahnsoo (976162) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:31PM (#26136171)
    If you pretend that you are being cursed by a witch, the whole village will break out their pitchtorches and burning forks to burn the witch. Get the mob to side with you, and you win, regardless of whether or not the so-called witch was actually guilty of witchcraft.

    That's the basic principle in this essay. I'm not saying that I agree with all of the finer points of the essay, but it makes a good argument overall. So far in my short lifespan, I have heard several cases involving harassment which were attempts by the harasser to cover up what they were doing by claiming the victim was the harasser.
  • The biggest danger to depressed kids is the depressed kids themselves. Personally, I think Lori Drew's conduct calls for a civil, not criminal case against her. Misdemeanor convictions against her help in that case. The last thing you want when you are suing somebody for half their earnings for the rest of their life is for them to be spending several years in jail, earning nothing. And of course, violation of terms of service is a contractual breach, which is entirely a civil matter, and has no business wh
  • because I am a Christian or that I am mentally or physically ill. It is really hard to hide either of the two but mostly my mental illness causes a writing style that has cyberbullies pick on me.

    I've attempted suicide a few times as a result of the cyberbullying esp when they find my home number and harass me at 3am my time using anonymous calls like 012-345-6789 as the Caller ID spoofed. Try to ignore them and they call Anonymous with no number and we cannot tell if it is my wife's family members in Thaila

  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:34PM (#26136225) Homepage Journal

    This verdict is just another sad example of making an overly-broad law under the guise that it will never be abused, and will only be used when "necessary". Laws are not meant to be used this way, and the old standby comes immediately into play, "that which can be abused, will be abused." Laws open to interpretation will be misinterpreted, or interpreted in a manner that would horrify those that created and supported the overly-broad law.

    Say NO to catch-all laws every chance you get. If they can't define the law in such a way that it cannot be abused/misinterpreted, it's not a good law, I don't care what you're trying to prevent. Find an airtight way to word it or don't put it on the books.

  • by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:35PM (#26136243) Homepage Journal
    The thrust of the argument here seems to be that the MySpace Verdict creates incentive for bullied kids to "get back" at bullies by harming themselves, thus subjecting the bullies to the force of the law. But, as I understand it, the MySpace Verdict only says that you can't break a website's Terms of Service in order to harass someone. In other words, had the 'Kyle' alias been real, there wouldn't have been a case. Now, for your argument to work the bullied kid would have to know that the bully wasn't real because otherwise there would have been no case.

    I'd like to suggest that:
    1. Such cases are far less plausible than people being bullied by real people, at least insofar as it escalates up to the point of, "Well I'll show them, I'll just kill myself!"
    2. It would be difficult to prove the case against the bully, because presumably if the bullied kid knew they weren't real, it would be more difficult to argue that the bully was the cause of death. The bullied kid would have to hide their knowledge, which would take a pretty devious kid.

    I'm not saying it's a good verdict; it's not. I'm just saying your particular concern about creating incentive for bullied kids to harm themselves seems a little exaggerated when you consider that they would have to know the bully was violating the terms of service before harming themselves in order to bring punishment on the bully.

  • It seems like you've put a lot of thought into this article. Unfortunately the thought that politicians and their electors put into such issues is trivial and ideological. I would imagine that the likelihood of any thoughtful and logical consideration towards laws and behaviours would be as likely as a politician or judge is to read this article; statistically unlikely.

    Best regards,

    UTW

  • Cyber crime? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vexorian (959249) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @09:21PM (#26140443)
    If I treat a person badly, in real life, and somehow that makes her take her own life, is it a crime as well? I don't think it is in my country, is it in yours? I am feeling the internet is getting over protective...

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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